Domenico Enrico MASSIMO1, Antonino BARBALACE1
Tab. 1. Does sprawl induce economic growth? No!. Ratio: sprawl 1990-2005; GDP per
capita 2006
SPRAWL 1990-2005 — GDP PER CAPITA 2006
Prov. Bolzano Valle d’Aosta
SPRAWL : % of regional land consumption 1990-2005
Source: Istat; Union Camere; author direct investigation
1. Research objectives
First objective of the research is to conduct a meta-analysis of the
relevant relationship between “urban sprawl and economic growth”.
Dipartimento Patrimonio Architettonico e Urbanistico, PAU. Università degli Studi
Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria. 25 Via Melissari, 89124 Reggio Calabria, Italy.
Phone 39.360.997513; Office 39.0965.385228; Fax 39.0965.385222.
Email: [email protected]; [email protected]
Attributions. Massimo D. E. conducted the research and wrote paragraphs 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8.
Barbalace A. organized and managed the field experimental work, and wrote paragraphs 4, 5.
Second objective of the research is to derive possible systematic
interventions to redirect the urban sprawl phenomenon that is still
consuming all the scarce and costly natural resources of the planet.
The same themes are investigated at international geographic scale as
well as at territorial scale, by experimenting Case Studies in which the
general framework is compared to specific local situations.
2. Sprawl - growth relationship at geographic scale
The meta-analysis conducted in the four continents identifies in some
driving forces the causes of the world wide phenomenon of the sprawl.
Some of them are:
a) economic growth;
b) demographic boom;
c) re-localization of complex activities in semi-urban areas;
d) housing shortage in urban areas;
e) high index of thronging, population crowding in small areas.
Researches agree to identify and assess the following negative effects:
- environmental, in terms of land, water and air consumption, and also
acoustic pollution;
- social, in terms of time people spend for commuting, and the relative
mobility, psychological and family costs.
In the last decades strong policy responses have been addressed, in
particular in Europe, to mitigate sprawl. Among them there are:
1. consolidation, id est treasuring and revamping of the existing cities;
2. containment, id est re-urbanization of suburban areas by enhancing street
connectivity and reducing the dimension of urban blocks;
3. new urbanism, id est construction of new compact and dense settlements
characterized by a mix of various urban functions and served by heavy
urban rail system;
4. heavy urban rail system, id est collective sustainable infrastructure on
3. Sprawl - growth relationship at territorial scale. Case Study
Research has investigated sprawl at local level by implementing a Case
Study in the entire Calabria region focusing on the central isthmian area
(the narrowest part of Italy: 40 km) where the second (Catanzaro) and third
(Lamezia Terme) towns of the region are located. Then, the results have
been compared with other Italian regions as Trentino, Valle d’Aosta, Friuli
and Tuscany, so called “Italia intermedia” [i.e. “intermediate Italy”] for
their medium size in terms of population, economy and inter-sectoral mix.
Sprawl in the Study area has distinctive characteristics. Its causes seem
to be different to those identified at geographic international scale. In fact,
the driving forces are not confirmed and sprawl in the Study area is not
connected to the growth factors singled out as the causes in other contexts
at geographic scale.
a) Sprawl is not proportional to GDP. In Calabria there is the most
relevant percentage of sprawl of all Italy (26,13% of more built land
from 1990 to 2005, versus Italy average of 17,06%) to which
corresponds the lowest regional GDP per capita. According to the
Italian Department of Statistics, in 2006 Calabria GDP per capita was
equal to 16.478 Euro, beneath Italian average of the same year (25.200
Euro), and far beneath the richest Bolzano province (32.970 Euro),
according to reference data.
b) Sprawl is not connected to population boom because in the last decade
it hasn’t been recorded a demographic increase in Calabria.
c) Sprawl has not an employment motivation, because endemic and
increasing is the unemployment in the region.
d) The area has one of the highest percentage of unoccupied houses of
Italy, and therefore there is not any shortage in the real estate supply.
e) The urbanized land per resident has increased from about 30 m2 per
inhabitant in 1954 to over 400 m2 per inhabitant in 2001, and therefore
there is not overcrowding at any latitude.
4. Diagrammatic
The diagrammatic comparison (Tab. 1 and 3) between regions such as
Trentino, Valle d’Aosta, Friuli and Tuscany with Calabria, investigated in
the Case Study, highlights an unexpected truth: the most virtuous regions in
terms of smallest sprawl (the least land consumption) have the highest
growth of GDP per capita (2006); the most vicious region, Calabria, in terms
of highest sprawl (the largest land consumption 1990-2005) has the lowest
growth of GDP per capita (2006).
Additionally, a specific parallel proxy, such as foreign tourist percentage
over the total of the country, validates the above outcome: Trentino shares 20%
of the total; Valle d’Aosta 18%; and Calabria only 2%.
Tab. 2. Case Study. Ratio between urbanization\resident [m2\res]. Diachronic analysis from
1870 to 2008, in the province of Catanzaro
(a) 4.523.578
(b) 191.648
(a) 8.903.840
(b) 274.286
(a) 144.519.312
(b) 347.302
(c) 250.000.000
(d) 340.000
Source: (a) historic cartography; (b) Istat; (c) urban plans; (d) Town Halls
Tab. 3. Case Study. Ratio sprawl\GDP per capita in some Italian regions
Regions \
Sprawl %
GDP 2006
Valle d’Aosta
Source: Istat; Unioncamere; research by authors
5. Geographic information system as support of the presented
The availability of powerful GIS tools made possible to analyze at large
scale: land use dynamics of an entire region; relationship between settlements
and farm land from 1783 to 2010; mobility data; transport alternative designs.
The built-up Geodatabase has therefore made possible to store and connect
in a comprehensive framework many information layers, such as:
georeferenced historical cartographies from 1783-1870 to present date;
boundaries of each settlement at different dates; calculation of land
consumption over time (1870-2010) on scientific cartographic basis;
demographic data reconstructing population dynamics for each settlement in
the last two centuries; economic data; information about mobility; design of
alternative scenarios of intervention to wrestling sprawl to the ground.
6. Results on sprawl and mobility: increase of private car use
Research has highlighted at territorial scale the similar sprawl negative
impacts identified at geographic scale, consisting in a pervasive increase of the
individual mobility with private cars.
Furthermore, research at territorial scale in the Case Study area has found
out that the main commuting concentration of the entire region is the isthmian
corridor Lamezia-Catanzaro, characterized by the largest volume of traffic with
private cars (over 28.000 each day), versus a potential supply of already
existing (but inefficient) sustainable green urban rail system.
Then, research focused on the need and urgency to address policy
responses, id est to design specific interventions against the negative impacts of
Research has detected how important are the interventions aiming to
enhance and ease the potential interactions and the potential exchanges
between people and places (structural accessibility) in a region characterized
by a very fragile economy: they might stimulate opportunities of productive
growth and economic development.
According to international analyses and studies, the enhancement of
collective transport system might represent one of the best ways to wrestling
sprawl to the ground by strengthening the compact and consolidated cities by
creating a polycentric structure avoiding further settlement dispersion, and by
enhancing potential exchange between people and places (i.e. accessibility).
Existing but inefficient urban rail system. Overview of planning
The enhancement of already existing urban rail system in the Study area has
been considered in several transportation plans at different government and
institutional level, among which:
1. Piano Generale dei Trasporti e della Logistica (Gennaio 2001) nazionale
e corridoi paneuropei e magrebino [National Plan for Transport and
2. Programma Operativo Nazionale, PON. Settore Trasporti. Periodo di
Programmazione 2000-2006. [National Operative Program for Transport];
3. POR 2000-2006. Asse VI. Reti e Nodi di Servizio (2001) [Regional Plan for
Transport 2000-2006];
4. POR 2007-2013. Piano Regionale dei Trasporti. Aggiornamento e
adeguamento [Regional Plan for Transport 2007-2013. Updating];
5. Piano di Bacino della Provincia di Catanzaro (2006) [Provincial Plan
for Mobility and Transport].
The overview has provided information about the convergence of plans and
programs in advocating the intervention for a more efficient and modern rail
road in the existing trial. Specifically, the contents of the various transportation
plans, analitically examined, have all indicated as tendentially preferable the
strengthening of the existing railroad infrastructure by integrating it with the
existing settlement system, and by amplifying the service also to other nearby
centres through small, cheap and agile vehicles called feeders. All this against
the individual mobility with private cars in the narrow isthmus connecting the
two national Tyrrenian and Jonian-Adriatic rail corridors, parts of the paneuropean rail corridors.
8. First considerations
Research has therefore concluded that at territorial scale in the Case Study
area it is possible to design infrastructure enhancement to address the policy
responses to sprawl, by empowering the transversal railroad of the isthmus
having the following stations: International Airport, Central Station, Sambiase,
Nicastro, Pianopoli, Marcellinara, Settingiano, Policlinico – Università –
Mercati Generali – Regione, Lido, Catanzaro.
This transversal railroad will enhance the connection between the two
national Tyrrenian and Jonian-Adriatic rail corridors, as well as among several
of the main settlements (with about 250.000 residents) and some technological
poles of the Study area.
Fig. 1. Urban sprawl assessment. Original settlements at 1870 (red) and 1954 (orange)
within the sprawl of today expansion at 2001 (grey). Entire province of Catanzaro
Fig. 2. Central area of Calabria: Lamezia Terme – Catanzaro. Transport alternative.
Mobility by private cars on route SS208, not serving towns (28.000 cars each day)
Fig. 3. Central area of Calabria: Lamezia Terme – Catanzaro. Transport alternative.
Improvement of the existing urban railroad (green) crossing urban settlements and serving
more than 250.000 inhabitants in towns
Fig. 4. Impact of the alternative transport at regional level. Infrastructures to connect and
unify Calabria. The isthmus connection between the two national Tyrrenian and JonianAdriatic rail corridors and narrowest part of Italy (40 km)
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green rail to foster urban sustainability versus sprawl